Approximately 8 weeks ago I set my calendar up with reminders for Project Food Buzz challenges. Today I noticed that I had only put the first four challenges on the calendar. Now, here I am posting challenge 6: Road Trip! Thank you all again for your support and I hope I get to thank you four more times. 🙂 I have to confess, while in the car yesterday, I had a little day dreaming session of what I would write if I actually won this contest. No worries–I already did you the favor of making myself a name tag that reads “dork”.
This week’s challenge is Road Trip! Challenge Prompt: For this challenge, you’re tasked with creating a delicious meal that will travel well and still look great. From picnics and school lunches to bento boxes, or any other meal on the go, you need to whip up a entree, side, drink, and dessert to enjoy after hitting the road. Be sure that your meal fits inside the Project Food Blog Road Trip Cooler.
This last week was a busy week because we had family visiting from out of town. Since I was so busy all week with family activities, I didn’t really have much time to think about what I was going to make for this challenge. Next thing I know, the weekend was on my heels and I had to get my act together. At first, I thought that I would make a Thanksgiving meal you can take on the road…which I did. But that soon morphed into what you can make with Thanksgiving leftovers and take on the road.
Since Thanksgiving was the idea, I had to get my hands on some turkey. I bought a turkey breast and seasoned it with a puree of onion, sage, and parsley. I brushed it with sage butter and popped it into the oven. It came out so tender and juicy that I thought it may not make it to it’s final destination.
I spent several hours hard at work in the kitchen. I made pastry dough from scratch, homemade pumpkin pop tarts, and peeled and diced a butternut squash. Have you ever peeled and diced a butternut squash? It’s a pain!
Feeling totally rushed and completely unprepared, Obed and I packed up our food and headed out to a nearby lake.
We made our plates and enjoyed our meal, but something wasn’t sitting right with me. I didn’t feel that I had really accomplished the challenge. Don’t get me wrong. Everything was delicious, I just felt that this wasn’t my best. Maybe I was just being hard on myself, making things up, or maybe it was because I had felt rushed, but I though I could do better.
That afternoon, after I got home from my picnic, I reviewed my thoughts and my pictures and decided that I needed a do over. I thought long and hard about it. I pretty much agonized over it and asked my husband so many questions, he eventually asked me to “phone a friend”. Finally, an idea that I could get behind and be excited about began to form.
It was getting late, but I figured I should go ahead and get a head start. I started with the beginnings of some crumble pumpkin cheesecake bars.
I checked the weather for the following day and saw that it was going to be cold and dreary. What better way to combat cold and dreary than with a hearty soup?! I had just roasted an entire turkey breast, which was the perfect start for a homemade stock.
Using that same homemade stock, a lonely lingering sweet potato, and some leftover turkey, I prepared a mixture for turkey and sweet potato croquettes.
The following morning, after a much needed night of restful sleep (which didn’t happen, by the way) I was back in the kitchen.
Just like the weather man predicted, it was cold and wet outside. I decided to make a turkey version of sancocho. This is my favorite cold weather dish, no doubt. Sancocho literally means stew. In Puerto Rico, when a person has spent all day under the hot sun, it is said that they are “sancochao”, which means stewing in the blistering heat.
Sancocho is traditionally made up of beef tips, beef stock, and a variety of starches that are both native to Puerto Rico and Africa. But I though making it with turkey leftovers and upping the sweet potato and butternut squash would be a great alternative.
I was working against the weather and had to get things together and on the move. I fried up the crispy turkey and sweet potato croquettes and made a cranberry and apple salsa to go with them.
Once the drinks were made, the croquettes cooled, and the clouds had briefly parted, we quickly packed up the cooler and got ready for the road.
At first, we were nervous that everything wasn’t going to fit in the cooler, but we tapped into our 1990 Tetris skills and got it done.
This time, just in case it rained, we decided to go to a nearby park that offered covered picnic tables. Unfortunately, all the covered picnic tables were being used for birthdays. Don’t these kids realize I have a challenge to finish?
I put Obed in charge of the heavy lifting. He also doubled as a great PFB Cooler model.
Finally, a meal and presentation that I can feel good about.
A hearty bowl of hot sancocho with turkey.
Turkey and sweet potato croquettes with cranberry and apple salsa.
Sinfully delicious pumpkin cheesecake crumble squares with some chocolate toffee bits…because I wanted to and I can.
Refreshing orange cranberry chai ice tea. I know it’s a mouth full, but it was a good one.
The croquettes were scrumptious–soft and savory on the inside with a crispy crunch on the outside. I had my reservations about a cranberry and apple salsa, but all those reservations vanished when I had my first bite. It was like having an entire Thanksgiving meal in one single bite.
I also dropped one in my soup. It was a perfect crunchy little dumpling for my soup.
It was a perfect meal to keep us warm during the cool wet weather picnic.
I also decided to do a second drink to accompany the sinful pumpkin cheesecake squares. For this drink, I traveled back in time to when I was a little girl. My mother used to warm milk with spices and a beaten egg yolk. It was delicious and one of my favorites. This cold weather called for some warm spiced milk.
Just as I was digging into my pumpkin cheesecake square, drops of water started to fall on our heads. Of course, it would decide to start raining just as I am starting to eat my sinful little treat.
We quickly gathered everything together and bolted to the car. Just as we made it, the rain started to fall and so ended our picnic.
I have enjoyed this process and all of these challenges, but I have to say that this challenge was the most difficult for me, even more so then the 12 person dinner party I hosted a few weeks ago. I ran into several obstacles, many distractions, a crazy amount of insecurity, and straight up cluelessness. The road trip/picnic did not turn out how I had imagined in my mind. I could have used the magic of editing to make it look all dreamy and easy but, instead you got neurotic insecurity and wet frizzy hair. What can I say? I like to keep it real.
But through the challenges and obstacles, I came out at the other end with a meal I could serve at a picnic or at home on the dinner table. I also found some new and inventive ways to use up all those turkey leftovers that are coming our way and in the end, I had fun. Don’t fret, I plan to post the recipes this week.
Oh, I also learned something about myself. I prefer to dine indoors.
Over and Out!
-Pumpkin Cheesecake Square Eater and No I Won’t Share